The Diocese of Ontario is very fortunate to have an extensive collection of a diverse array of historic documents and artefacts. With everything ranging from Medieval manuscripts to historic local maps, church architectural drawings, and personal correspondence, we have so many resources to offer our parishes and the public. This summer (2022), we are gradually bringing these treasures out into the light for the use of our parishes, and ideally the public. The following short mini documentary videos below are a sneak preview of some of the incredible items on our shelves.

The Boy Bishop and John Travers Lewis’ Mitre, circa 1862

To kick off the gradual opening of the Archives and celebrate our Diocese’s 160th anniversary, the diocese is launching a museum-style curated exhibit here at the Synod Office, entitled The Boy Bishop.

Lewis' bishop’s mitre, that will be part of the collection, was worn by John Travers Lewis during ceremonies and services throughout his episcopate from 1862 until 1893, when he was pronounced Metropolitan and eventual Archbishop of Ontario. This rare and poignant artefact, along with many other incredible vestiges of the past, will be presented in the exhibit The Boy Bishop. They provide us insight into Lewis not only as a Bishop and religious figurehead, but as a son, a father, a husband, and a scholar.

Engraved Plates I-XCVI - "Description des plantes principales de l'Amerique Septentrionalle", taken from Histoire et description generale de la Nouvelle France; from the library of Sir James Stuart; 1744

This mini-doc with host Summer Archivist Kelly Goslin features the seminal work of Jesuit missionary and historian Pierre-Francois de Charlevoix. One of the lesser-known gems that Charlevoix included in his works: a record of North American flora, complete with extensive, elaborate, and rare engravings. These  are a vital part of eighteenth century Canadian and North American history and were integral to the botany in the New World. We are very fortunate to now house these documents in the Archives, originally part of the library of Sir James Stuart.

Land Grant to the Rev. George O’Kill Stuart to construct a parsonage in Kingston, 1827

The English church has had roots in the Kingston area dating back to the last quarter of the 18th century, with record of rectorship for St. George’s Cathedral dating back to 1785. The original St. George’s church structure, a simple whitewashed wood-frame building, was constructed in 1792 facing what is now the Market Square by the Kingston Town Hall. This original parish establishment was ordained by Rev. John Stuart, a Loyalist born in Pennsylvania who ministered as a missionary to the Mohawk peoples of colonial New York. Rev. Stuart’s son George O’Kill Stuart followed in his scholastic and ecclesiastical footsteps and in many ways moved forward to expand upon his father’s work establishing and developing the English Church in Kingston.

The sermons of John Calvin, printed and published by Thomas Daw, 1581

The Diocese of Ontario Archives are incredibly fortunate to have a remarkable collection of rare antiquarian books and publications. These are of a diverse variety, ranging from botanical observations to a complete 10-volume set of Francis Bacon’s works from 1819. One of our most remarkable and historically significant pieces of theological literature is our copy of The Sermons of John Calvin, printed and published by Thomas Daw of London for George Bishop in 1581. Published only 17 years after Calvin’s death, it carries significance not only for our diocese, but for our congregants and parishes on an ancestral level.

The personal effects of Ada Leigh Lewis

In this video we present to you the mystery of a curious relic that could be connected to one of the most famed seafaring disasters of the 19th century. In the Diocese of Ontario Archives resides many personal effects of Ada Leigh Lewis, the second wife of Bishop John Travers Lewis. Two of those items, do not fit with the rest of the collection—the first is a note, the second, a knife. There is nearly a coherent story linking them together, but not quite. However, it is a fascinating possibility and an even greater mystery housed within the Diocese of Ontario Archives.

15th century Medieval manuscript

Presented in this Archives Showcase video is one of the finest artefacts in the Diocese of Ontario’s Archives – a 600-page compendium Medieval manuscript, written in the mid-fifteenth century by German Benedictine monks. It is in completely untouched condition, bound in oak and leather, with every page written by hand by multiple monastic authors using hand-made iron gall ink and gouache. 

Through this manuscript, we explore the lives and works of multiple significant Medieval theologians who played pivotal roles in the development of Christianity and learn about Medieval Germany and its theological and political development before and during the Protestant Reformation. We are also granted a remarkable perspective on monastic life and the orders of ecclesiastical polity within these sacred institutions, gazing not only from the vantage of a reader, but from that of a Benedictine monk as well.

Archives Showcase - Barriefield Land Grant

This week on the Archives Showcase, we are presenting a selection of documents that pertain to the 1843 construction of St. Mark’s Church, Barriefield. We explore two original architectural drawings of the proposed structure, a facsimile copy of the original call for building, and the original 1843-1844 land deeds and 1862 petition for consecration. By examining these items, we can learn not only about the development of St. Mark's Church, but that of the community of Barriefield, its relationship to the Navy and Fort Henry, and its role in broader Kingston history.

Memorial Plaque from St. Thomas' Belleville

This week on the Archives Showcase we feature a memorial note provided for the laying of the cornerstone of St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in 1865. This note, printed on silk, provides an opportunity to examine the establishment of the parish of St. Thomas' and provide insight into church history and discussion around heritage preservation within the Anglican Diocese of Ontario.

Archives Showcase: the writing case of George O'Kill Stuart Jr.

This simple leather bag once belonged to the son of the famed George O’Kill Stuart that helped establish and construct the present-day Diocese of Ontario See church, St. George’s Cathedral of Kingston. O’Kill Stuart Jr. was a famed solicitor and significant figure in 19th century Canadian legislative history. Chief legal representative for Quebec City and its mayor from 1846 to 1850, elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, Queen’s Counsel in 1854, bâtonnier representative for Lower Canada in the 1850s, and judge in the Vice Admiralty Court of Quebec from 1873 until his death in 1884. He contributed heavily to the documentation and publication of significant provincial and federal cases in Lower Canada, later known as Quebec, as well as providing amendments and notations to a collection of similar case work from the provincial courts of the Maritime Provinces. For those with an enthusiasm for Canadian legal history, this is a particularly significant piece of our past.